The Republican Party Convention rules are really confusing. But to put it simply, it breaks down like this:
- A candidate needs to win 1237 delegates to win the Republican nomination on the first ballot at a convention.
- Delegates are only bound to vote for their state’s winning candidate on the first ballot.
- If no candidate receives 1237 delegates on the first ballot, delegates begin to become unbound on the 2nd and 3rd ballots, free to vote for whomever they choose.
- In order to qualify to have your name for nomination consideration on ensuing ballots, a candidate must have won more than half of available delegates in 8 separate given contests.
- Every state has different rules on how delegates are selected. Some are directly elected by the people, but most aren’t chosen until weeks/months later at county, district, and state conventions. This is why simply winning a state’s election is not near enough. You need to have the ground game to ensure that the delegates that end up getting nominated actually support your guy.
Only Ted Cruz and Donald Trump will reach the 8-state threshold. However, Ted Cruz will not receive the 1237 delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination pre-convention. Neither will Donald Trump. Cruz will likely be mathematically eliminated by the end of April, but Trump will be as well by the end of May. There will be a contested convention in Cleveland for the first time since 1976. After losing horribly to Cruz tonight in Wisconsin, it’s clear that the current momentum is strongly in Cruz’s favor. Trump has yet to win over a 50% majority in any contest thus far. Cruz has. Trump’s base is extremely loyal and devoted, but they are also in the minority, never reaching more than 30-35% on average. That minority constituted a majority when there were 17, then 10, and even 5 other candidates in the race splitting the remaining vote. But now that it’s down to just him vs. Cruz, it’s clear that he is losing.
John Kasich is a non-factor. He needs more than 115% of remaining delegates to win (meaning it’s impossible). He has won only one contest so far, and that was his home state. Kasich’s entire strategy has been to stay around long enough to reach the convention, and then turn into the Establishment savior at the last minute, when delegates would suddenly decide to support him over Cruz or Trump. The problem with this strategy is that first, he must win a majority of delegates in 8 different states. He will only win the majority in one state, Ohio. His name will not even be allowed on the ballots. His other hope is that the delegates at the convention will propose to change the rules before voting begins, allowing him to be considered for nomination. The other problem with this strategy is that 80% of the delegates that go to convention will be Cruz and Trump delegates. These are the same delegate that comprise the Rules Committee, that has the authority to make Rules changes. If you think the delegates that are for Trump and Cruz are going to suddenly decide to allow someone who has only won one state to win, you’re out of your mind. A vote for John Kasich at this point is a wasted vote in its entirety. Both now, and at the convention. His name will not be available for consideration.
Ted Cruz has prepared for a contested convention scenario before the election season ever started. This can be seen for example by when he sent representation to Guam of all places before the cycle even started, to start to garner delegate supporters from all corners of the map. Ted Cruz has the strongest delegate game that modern primary politics has ever seen. By the start of next week, Ted Cruz will have won five delegate contests in a row: Utah, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Wyoming, and won them by double-digits. This past weekend, Ted Cruz won 6 of 6 available delegates in Colorado. He also won 18 in North Dakota, compared to only 1 for Donald Trump. Colorado will elect the remainder of its delegates this weekend, followed by Wyoming, and Ted Cruz is strongly favored to sweep almost all of them.
Donald Trump’s team is in disarray. They don’t understand how the delegate process works, and it’s becoming more and more evident as the calendar moves along. Even though Trump beat Cruz by 3% in Louisiana, Cruz ended up with more delegates in the end, because of his superior ground game and ensuring his supporters showed up at the next caucuses the next month when the actual delegate selection process took place. The same is currently happening in Arizona, where Trump won all 58 available delegates. And yet, behind the scenes, it is Cruz’s ground game in AZ that is gaining the support of those delegates. Yes, those 58 delegates will be bound to vote for Trump on the first ballot, but not on the second. Another example of Trump’s ineptness at the delegate game is that he may now lose all 50 of South Carolina’s delegates, despite initially winning them all. Some states have special clauses that state if the winner of the primary decides to no longer support the eventual Republican Party nominee, those delegates are no longer bound to support said candidate. Last week, Donald Trump said he can no longer say that he would support another nominee. He probably shouldn’t have said that, since now South Carolina’s delegates may not be bound to him at all.
The ironic thing is that no one can justifiably argue that Cruz would be ‘stealing’ the election from Trump. Donald Trump loves Arizona’s Winner-Take-All rule of getting to have every single delegate, and not splitting them up proportionally. But if he loves and abides by one state’s rule, he has to do the same for others, such as Louisiana, where he threatened to file a lawsuit when he found out he received less delegates than Cruz. But the reason Trump threatened a lawsuit but never followed through, is because he knows that Cruz did nothing wrong. He played by Louisiana’s rules. Trump is being out-organized left and right by Cruz, and he knows it. So instead of working harder to prevent it from happening again, he falsely cries foul play and plays the victim. This way, when he loses the nomination this summer, he has his supporters convinced that he was somehow ‘cheated’ out of winning. But every states’ rules have been publicly available since before the primary began. It’s no one’s fault but your own if you don’t know the rules to the game that you are playing. Trump only likes to go where there are big stadiums with big crowds that make for good television. Trump did not go to North Dakota last week when they held their convention. Ted Cruz did. No small county or precinct election meetings were considered insignificant for Cruz, and it paid off last weekend when Cruz won 18 N.D. delegates to only 1 for Trump. This is why Trump is losing.
One of the reasons Cruz is gaining support, even from the unlikeliest of supporters (i.e. Lindsey Graham who not-that-sarcastically joked about Cruz’s death), is because a majority of the Republican voter base fears a Trump nomination. While many in Congress might prefer Trump due to him not having a solid principled stance on anything, (meaning that even if they can’t stand him, they could probably work with him on some issues), it’s Cruz that is turning out the base, while Trump is not. The other fear is Trumps sky-high unfavorable ratings. He loses to Hillary Clinton head to head in 12 of the last 12 polls taken, by double digits. Now, it’s normally common for a candidate with more name recognition to begin as the more popular choice, and it get close to even as the lesser known candidate rises through the ranks and campaign season. For an example, see Hillary’s dominance in 2008 as the favorite candidate until this nobody named Barack Obama came along and increased his name recognition. The problem with Trump though is that he already has 100% name recognition, has more than twice as much media coverage than any other candidate on either side, and is only becoming more and more unpopular. That’s not a trend that will be reversed.
Clinton is the most un-likable Democratic candidate in years, and yet she is perceived as favorable compared to Trump. Trump’s unfavorable’s with women have gone up from about 40% all the way to as high as near 80% in recent polls. This is an un-winnable general election formula. Trump’s other problem is that the only reason he has a delegate lead right now is due to Democrats and Independents that crossed over to vote for him in the states that had open primaries. But in contests where it is only Republicans that are voting for Republicans, Cruz beats Trump easily. Now it’s great to say that you’re bringing in new voters, but when you’re bringing in new voters because of your own liberal views, while simultaneously turning off the actual base of your party, where recent polls say as many as 40% of Republicans would refuse to vote for you in a general election should you become the nominee, you will lose.
The reason why everyone else is rallying around Cruz, even those in Congress that do not like him, is because they realize that their own future’s are in jeopardy with Trump on the ticket. If the polls are correct, and Trump suppresses the base’s voter turnout by that much, the Republicans will lose the Senate, and could very well lose the House as well. They now see it as:
- Reluctantly nominate Trump, even though you hate him. But risk losing your own election seat because Trump is an awful down-ballot candidate suppressing the base.
- Reluctantly nominate Cruz, even though you hate him. But get to keep your own election seat because he’s a candidate that is turning out the base.
More and more are choosing Option 2.
In order to win a primary election, you can’t just energize your supporters to vote on the first vote where the breakdown of delegates are chosen. You have to also have the ground game and organization to get those same supporters to show up for all of the ensuing votes that take place, where the actual delegates are chosen. Trump’s disorganization is his downfall.
Donald Trump won’t be the Republican nominee. Ted Cruz will.